Why are we so shaken today? It is because we are so used to living with fear, we are so used to the little put-downs so often described as “jokes”. So many of us were bullied at school and rejected by our families that we don’t trust the world around us easily.
We know that we are inviting verbal abuse and the danger of physical attack if we walk around holding our loved one’s hand or kissing in public. We know to check and not behave in a way that is “too gay” if we’re out on the street at night, especially if you’re on your own.
We know we are at risk, and what this foul act of terror in Orlando has done is take that fear and make it concrete.
For many of us, our clubs and bars are the only places we can be ourselves. They are safe spaces away from families, from fellow employees and others who might laugh and jeer. They are often the only places we can relax and show who we are and openly show our love for partners; these are spaces where we can hug, kiss, and just act like the rest of the world does every day.
This month is Pride Month. Our community’s way of taking a stance against the discrimination and violence most of us face every single day of our lives.
Well, on 12th June, one man silenced the voices of 49 individuals. Wounded 53 others and traumatized the whole world. One man hated so much that he caused so much pain to families, friends, lovers and acquaintances.
On 12th June, the world was shown, in sheer unadulterated horror, the result of preaching hate and denying diversity. This is not an isolated incident; thousands of people lose their lives every day. I remember the 147 lives lost in the Garissa Massacre. I remember the 67 lives silenced in The Westgate Mall shooting. I remember the 19 Yazidi girls burnt to death for refusing sexual slavery.
We stand in solidarity with all who have lost their lives in senseless killings the world over. Today, we honor those who died on 12th June. To honor those who lost their loved ones. To honor those who survived the ordeal. To honor those who have been affected in any way.
34-year-old Edward Sotomayor Jr, 22-year-old Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22-year-old Luis S. Vilema, 23-year-old Stanley Almodovar III, 36-year-old Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 25-year-old Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, 50-year-old Franky Jimmy Velazquez, 40-year-old Javier Jorge-Reyes, 21-year-old Cory James Connell, 19-year-old Jason Benjamin Josaphat. These are just 10 of the 49 hopes and dreams that will never come true. These names may mean nothing to you. These names however mean everything to their parents, their friends, their brothers and sisters. They mean everything to the people who loved them.
These names could also belong to your parents, your friends, your brothers or sisters. They could belong to people who you love. And that is the message here. We are human beings. We are one people. We breathe, eat, sleep. We love, we are loved. We are one. Even though we may be one, we are diverse. We love differently. We eat differently. We are of different races. We are all different individuals. We must all embrace this diversity. We must all accept this diversity. We must all understand this diversity. That is the only way we will live in peace.
Completely unnecessary, the killing, maiming and traumatizing of all these people two days ago. Completely unnecessary, the homophobia, biphobia and transphobia that drives people to committing such heinous acts. Hate is completely unnecessary. It is unnecessary because it never wins. Love always wins. We are not here to condemn anyone, any religion, any political affiliation. We are here to say that love always wins. And even as the families and friends of those who lost their lives start the process of healing, our message to them is this. Love always, every day, forever, wins.